To mark the centenary of the publication of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, Roger Allam and pianist Angela Hewitt present a reading of the work, interspersed with music by Ravel, Debussy, Dukas, Messiaen, and William Bolcom. The performance will also include Eliot’s poems Marina and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The evening, followed by a three-course dinner, takes place at Fidelio Cafe in London on March 12, 2022. Places are limited, so book now! Edit: SOLD OUT
T. S. Eliot’s landmark modernist poem The Waste Land was published in 1922. Divided into five sections, the poem explores life in London in the aftermath of the First World War, although its various landscapes include the desert and the ocean as well as the bustling metropolis. The poem is notable for its unusual style, which fuses different poetic forms and traditions. Eliot also alludes to numerous works of literature including the Bible, Shakespeare, St Augustine, Hindu and Buddhist sacred texts, as well as French poetry, Wagnerian opera, and Arthurian legend surrounding the Holy Grail. But the poem is also strikingly modern in its references to jazz music, gramophones, motorcars, typists and tinned food.
Not long after its publication, The Waste Land became a talking-point among readers, with some critics hailing it as a masterpiece that spoke for a generation of lost souls, and others denouncing it for its allusiveness or for its unusual modernist style. It continues to divide readers, but its reputation as one of the most influential poems of the twentieth century is secure. Visit the Loughborough University’s website for further summary and analysis of the poem.
Angela Hewitt and Roger Allam have worked together on several occasions, starting 8 years ago at the annual Trasimeno Music Festival. A series of summer concerts in the Umbrian town Magione and on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, it has been rated by the national and foreign press as “one of the most prestigious festivals in Europe” and as “one of the best music festivals in Italy”. It was founded in 2005 by the world-renowned Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest living interpreters of the music of Bach. Though they did not perform together in 2014, Allam recited together with soprano Dame Felicity Lott at the festival during an evening devoted to William Walton’s Façade.
The following year, Allam gave an intimate reading of Eliot’s Four Quartets at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London as part of their Concerts by Candlelight series. The reading was highlighted by the music of Bach and Messiaen, performed by Hewitt. A magical evening, a repeat performance was held in 2016 at the Riverhouse Barn in Surrey. During the Second World War, Eliot divided his time between London and Shamley Green in Surrey, where he wrote the third and fourth quartets.
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When invited to talk on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions in 2016, Allam talked about his collaboration with Hewitt, and why they chose Bach’s Goldberg Variations: Variation no.14 for Eliot’s Four Quartets. “Angela always makes Bach feel really close to dance, which I really love.”
In 2018, Allam returned to the Trasimeno Music Festival as a participant at An Evening of Poetry and Music. As an encore, he recited Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare, which can be watched on YouTube.